Las Lajas Sanctuary is one of the most fascinating religious structures in all of Colombia.
It is commonly referred to as “a miracle of God in the abyss.”
The name “Laja” comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to shale.
Las Lajas Sanctuary is a very special building thanks to its topography. This beautiful church is built inside the deep canyon of Guáitara River, in the place where in 1754 was seen an apparition of Virgin Mary.
In 1754, an Amerindian woman and her daughter found themselves caught in a brutal storm. Hiding out from the weather in the gorge, the women felt a force calling to them, and to their amazement looked up and saw the image of the Virgin Mary on the rocks above. At that moment, the woman’s daughter was simultaneously cured of her inability to hear and speak.
The first shrine in the honor of Jesus’s mother was built a few years after the alleged appearance, according to the journal of a friar who was traveling the region between 1756 and 1764.
In January 1795 started a construction of a new chapel – this time from brick. It was completed in 1802.
Soon this building was extended and an impressive structure now adorned the Guáitara canyon, with incredibly tall walls rising high above the river.
Later here was built a bridge with two arches towards the church, thus bridging the canyon at the shrine.
The present church was built in Gothic Revival style between 1916 and 1949. It rises 100 meters (330 feet) high from the bottom of the canyon and is connected to the opposite side of the canyon by a 50 meters (160 feet) tall bridge.
The bridge is 20 meters (65.6 feet) long and 17 meters (55.8 feet) wide and has two arcs. This bridge forms an impressive plaza in the front of the church.
Church itself is 27.5 meters (90 feet) long and 15 meters (49.2 feet) wide.
Inside, the three naves are covered with vaults. It has mosaics in fiberglass and day lighting gives your light that filters through the stained glass made by the Italian Walter Wolf.
The fund or apse of the three ships is the natural stone wall of the canyon and in the central nave is an illuminating the image of the Virgen del Rosario, painted by an unknown author on a stone slab.
The basement of the temple itself, besides the two arches of the bridge, is a Romanesque crypt with three naves covered with barrel vaults of ashlar stone structure and is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Although the site was dedicated a minor basilica by the Catholic Church in 1954, non-religious visitors can still enjoy the dramatic setting and neo-Gothic architecture.
In recognition of the church’s remarkable architecture and stunning location it has been placed at No. 1 on a list of the world’s most beautiful churches by The Telegraph newspaper.